There are a lot of steps to applying for an MBA. You need to find the right business school and the right programme and prepare all your supporting documents for your application – including your recommendation letters. But how do you get a good recommendation letter for an MBA?
Recommendation letters are a key part of the MBA application process. They are usually written by people who know you well, such as a previous employer or teacher and let your potential business school know that you’re ready to undertake this intensive course.
However, getting a good recommendation letter for an MBA is easier said than done. It’s about more than just asking someone you know to write one. So, to make the process easier for you, here are five tips for how to get a good recommendation letter for an MBA.
What is a recommendation letter?
When you apply to an MBA program (or any high-level taught degree), you will have to include recommendation letters with your application. These are written by professionals who know you and your work background and can talk about your skills and qualities from a personal viewpoint.
Most applications for MBA courses will require two letters, though some prestigious courses may ask for up to three.
How to Get a Good Recommendation Letter for an MBA
1. Choose Someone Who Knows You Well
A good MBA recommendation letter should be written by someone who knows you in a professional manner, for example, a previous employer, supervisor, colleague, or co-project leader.
You don’t necessarily have to choose your current employer. As Harvard Business School advises, you may put your current work position in jeopardy if you let them know you are applying to a programme. If this is the case, choose people from your past work experience who can speak to your skills, weaknesses, and experience with confidence.
Remember, you can always use the additional space in the application to explain why you chose who you did.
2. Share Your Resume With Them
For your recommender to write a successful letter, they need to know about you. They might already know a lot about your work background, for example, if you worked under them for a long time. However, to make sure they get all the specifics, it helps to share your resume with them.
The resume that you share with your recommender should be the same one that you have used to apply to the business school. This prevents any confusion later on in the process if, for example, your recommendation letter talks about an experience that isn’t in your resume.
3. Tell Them Any specifics About Letter Format
Many schools have specific formats they need recommendations to be in. This might include a specific word count or advice on how to structure the letter.
At some schools, recommenders may not have free reign to write a letter at all. Instead, they may have to answer specific questions that cover things like how you react to specific situations and your personal qualities. Make sure that your recommenders know about this before they start writing the letter so they can produce the most relevant letter.
4. Leave Enough Time For Them To Write Your Letter
In general, it’s recommended that you start asking for recommendation letters two or three months in advance of the application deadline. This gives your advocates enough time to produce the letter and leaves time for you to find alternatives if your chosen recommenders can’t write the letter for you.
In your request, you should also let them know what the application deadline is, so they’re aware of how long they have to complete the letter.
5. Give them Additional Information About You
You might have chosen a supervisor or project leader that knows your skills and experience, but do they know everything about you? If there are any additional anecdotes or personal experiences you wish your recommender to mention, now is the time to tell them.
It might help to schedule an online or in-person call with your recommender after they’ve agreed to help you with your application. This way, you can go over the details of the letter and anything you would like them to write about on your behalf.
There are lots of elements to the application process for an MBA programme. However, getting successful recommendation letters is one of the most crucial parts. These recommendation letters could be the difference between an average application and one that makes your business school certain they must offer your a place on their programme.
When asking people for recommendation letters, the most important thing to remember is to choose people who know you. While direct supervisors are best, if you know someone else professionally who has a better sense of your qualities and experience, they might be a better option.
Finally, remember to leave time for your recommender to write the letter. This could take a while to get right, and you don’t want to be panicking close to the deadline.
For more help with MBA applications, read our article 5 Things To Remember When Applying to Business School.